Many people have never heard of a small building in Southeast Washington DC called The National Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, doesn’t have quite the same ring as The Library of Congress. But for blind people and individuals with physical handicaps this can be an important tool.

What is the NLS? The NLS provides a free library service to people who are unable to use regular printed material because of visual impairment or a physical disability. Like any other library, the NLS selects books and magazines for full-length publication in braille, e-braille, and audio. These specialized texts are then circulated to eligible borrowers throughout the nationwide network of cooperating libraries. The materials and playback equipment are free and sent to borrowers. The equipment can be returned to libraries through postage-free mail, kind of like Netflix before digital streaming.

Like the current Netflix, the NLS also has an online service called the Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD). Here users can download digital talking books and electronic braille or e-braille. BARD even has an App!

One of the very coolest parts about the NLS is that all of the music scores, digital recordings, and e-books are recorded in-house by voice actors and musicians contracted by the government. This takes out the middle man of a publishing company and allows the library to keep their content fresh and current.

Traveling abroad? No problem. The NLS had a librarian specifically for United States citizens registered outside the United States. You just need to go to the NLS website and contact the overseas librarian. That will help keep you occupied during all those long flights overseas.

The NLS is an underused government service. This is a fountain of knowledge and a valuable resource for anyone with a disability. The NLS is working hard to ensure that all may read; so find a library near you, and start reading!